Posted Under: Anti-War,Islamophobia,Israel/Palestine
In the 1960s and 70s, two ultra leftist groups, the Weathermen in the USA, and the Red Army Faction in West Germany, used the same slogan to clarify the motivation for their violent response to the US invasion of Vietnam: ‘bringing the war home.’
There are two movements we can describe as ‘bringing the war home’ at the moment in the UK. One if the EDL, the other is the Palestine movement. Neither is intrinsically progressive, and both have huge potential. Obviously, however, we have no interest in helping the potential of the EDL, and every interest in furthering the progressive elements within the pro-Palestine movement.
The EDL are indeed the ‘cutting edge of racism’, but this doesn’t mean they are outsiders. Rather, they are exaggerating ideas at the heart of the British state’s war rhetoric. The recent investigations by the Guardian and the BBC have shown clearly that there is (at least for now) a few black and asian supporters among the EDL. The key here is not that the EDL aren’t racist: but simply that skin is no longer the locus of their struggle. Instead, perceptions of Islam (fundamentalist and otherwise), those same perceptions peddled by all three political parties over the years, have taken centre stage. There has been a movement away from skin and towards faith: note the prevalence of crosses, both on the English flags and on necklaces worn by EDL members. And surely this is the same kind of religion-baiting adopted by Richard Dawkins and other populist atheists.
On the other side, the Palestinian movement seems also to be shifting (growing up, perhaps): no longer are there the cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’ outside the Israeli embassy, and anti-Zionist jews are welcome at the demonstrations. Here the locus of struggle is still within the realm of religion, but not exclusively – it still also remains in that of nationality. The cries of ‘Viva Viva Palestina’ are increasingly joined by ‘In our thousands in our million, we are all Palestinians’, and the even more the disturbing ‘from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free’.
The first of these is a cry of support, the last a promise of revolutionary justice, with a potential for veiled anti-semitism. The middle slogan, however, is one of the creation of a political subjectivity, and one based very much around nationality. Just as the Proletariat, the Indigenous, the Global South or the Multitude are the naming of a global resisting mass, through which a common identity can be formed, so the “thousands and millions of Palestinians” attempts to invoke a mass movement around Palestine. However, here the name is given by a nation. Israel was created in a similar way, through the invocation of a nation as a unifying call for a political movement to support an oppressed people, a call which did create a political subjectivity, one which still survives.
The EDL are similarly attempting to create a political subjectivity around the notion of England, a subjectivity which includes non-white skin, but still supports a base Nationalism. The different levels of capital and power employed by England and Palestine, neither of which are sovereign states, does not make a difference to the nationalism within them. And this is the bringing home of the war, the resort to nationalism as a mode of struggle.
I do find this worrying. No, it’s not something we can easily change and yes, there are more important immediate aspects within the Gaza movement (as I would rather call it) to be addressed. But we shouldn’t abandon the political subjectivities we form for ourselves in order to show solidarity, so I won’t be claiming to be a Palestinian any time soon.
What I think we are doing here is bringing the war home – but not in a useful way, and not in its physically violent form (as the Weathermen did), but in its structurally violent one. And in doing so, we risk replicating the discourse of their war, rather than our own.